The SRCY officers are aware of the postings which have been made to the Bellringers Facebook group overnight and today. These are being considered and a further announcement in relation to these matters will be made in the next 24 hours.

Update 17 April 2021

Following the recent events on social media the officers have attached the original statement which was published on 1 March and was available to all members on the Society Facebook page. The decision was taken to release this on Facebook as a Society matter due to the original grievances being staged on the social media platform. This may not have been the correct action to publish such documents for which we regret.

A thorough investigation did take place with all parties concerned where they were members of this Society. Any activity by individuals was emphatically not in the capacity of a member or officer of their respective societies nor did it take place on a society platform. The original statement will explain our approach to this investigation and the inclusion of third party advice to ensure a fair and correct resolution.

With regards to the Junior Steward, it was specifically raised by the injured party during the investigation that they did not want the Junior Steward to resign from their post.

From the evidence presented to the officers and to the Safeguarding Officers of the CCCBR, there was no evidence to suggest that the Junior Steward had any involvement in the online bullying of a child. The Junior Steward released a public statement on 1 March which is also included in this document.

Over the past few days a heated discussion has taken place on the Bellringers Facebook group where some individuals, including members of this Society, have made allegations against others and the Society. Individuals are asked to consider any comments they make without the evidence to support them as such comments are deemed as online bullying and counterproductive to the fair and correct conclusion of this matter.

Since the close of the investigation the officers have produced the profile for a new role within the Society in the capacity of a Safeguarding Coordinator. This was voted on and carried successfully at the Society’s business meeting on 14 April. The purpose of this role is to update and actively manage the Society’s Safeguarding Policy in line with the Church of England and CCCBR and to act as an advisory role to the officers.

The officers have produced a Social Media Policy which was adopted and came into effect at the Society’s business meeting on 14 April. This can be found on the Society website.

If anyone should have any concerns or queries, they should be raised through the correct channels by contacting the Society directly.

Statement from the officers (01/03/2021)

On Monday 8 February the officers released a statement regarding activity on social media that involved some members of the Society. Evidence was provided in the form of screenshots of various posts, profiles and groups on Facebook which was reviewed by the officers.

The first point to note is how vast the issue is and involves many people both from within and outside this Society and other societies are implored to adopt a similar approach to online bullying. In order to proceed, the following four points were considered:

  1. Non-personal profiles (including profiles depicting fictional people and inanimate objects)

    There is a high number of profiles on Facebook depicting fictional people (fake profiles). The officers enquired into several of these in an attempt to discover who controlled them which allegedly is a very wide group of people from both within and outside this Society. As it is impossible to definitively prove who is involved with or in control of a fake profile, these were discounted from this investigation.

    Members are encouraged to not engage in such activity and are reminded of the dangers of accusing others without proof and would urge users to block these profiles if they are found offensive.

  2. Posts regarding members

    There have been derogatory personal comments posted which the Society and the officers do not condone and this type of behaviour does not meet the standard which the Society expects of its members. Each member was contacted where there was definitive proof of their involvement to express this message and to discuss the damage caused to individuals and the image of this Society. Following discussion, apologies have been extended by those involved to other parties and to the officers.

  3. Posts regarding the Society

    There have been derogatory comments posted on a public forum regarding the level of concern this Society holds on safeguarding. The activity on social media is not deemed to be a safeguarding matter and is instead deemed to be online bullying. This has been discussed and agreed with the Safeguarding Officers of the CCCBR yet does not mean it has been treated any more or less seriously in our investigations. This is a highly dangerous and sweeping statement that is not condoned by the Society or the officers. Members are reminded of the dangers of making such statements without due cause and any true breach should be reported to the relevant officials rather than being posted on social media.

  4. Next steps

    During the investigation process, a number of steps have been identified where the Society could improve to prevent such incidents happening again and to provide members with proper resources for varied issues. The steps proposed by the officers which will be presented at a future business meeting are:

    1. The appointment of a Safeguarding Officer within the Society
    2. The update and active management of the Society’s safeguarding policy by the newly appointed Safeguarding Officer
    3. The production of a social media policy
  5. Overall, the Society cannot be responsible for the actions of members in any public forum but every member should remember the level of conduct expected and how any and all activity may reflect on the Society. Members should trust that a thorough investigation has taken place with all members involved and advice sought from other parties where necessary.

    This matter is now closed as we move into the aforementioned next steps.

Statement from the Junior Steward (01/03/2021)

Dear Society members,

On Saturday 6th February, a number of highly offensive memes and posts were created in what was believed to be a small, private group on Facebook, consisting of a number of younger ringers who are members of the SRCY as well as other societies. The posts were directed towards members of the SRCY, and the language used was abusive and highly inappropriate. Screenshots of these posts were then made public on a bellringers Facebook page of more than 5000 people.

The events of 2020 mean a large number of people are spending a significantly greater proportion of their lives on social media and deserve to feel safe when they do so. People who saw the posts were quite rightly offended, and links were drawn between the posts and the SRCY because I am Junior Steward and I was involved.

I am aware that since June, a number of fake profiles have been produced to allow individuals to cause mischief whilst maintaining anonymity and I am also aware anecdotally that I have been on the receiving end of the blame for a number of these profiles when, much like recent events, my involvement has been minimal.

Anyone who saw the screenshots will be able to discern that my involvement was restricted to 2 comments. However, as an officer, any contribution on my part is totally unacceptable and immediately brings the society into disrepute. I apologised to those on the receiving end for my involvement the day after, and now publicly apologise to the Master, the other officers and all members of the society who were offended by what they saw.

The Cumberlands have provided me with many opportunities to progress as a ringer and as a person and I am committed to contributing back to the society as an officer. Therefore, the fact my involvement has tarnished the society's reputation for being a friendly, inclusive and forward-thinking society is deeply upsetting, and I am truly sorry.